Deady and Dunn Halls - next steps

September 1, 2016

Dear University of Oregon Community,

This letter concerns my recommendation to the University of Oregon Board of Trustees in connection with a demand by some of our students to remove the names from two buildings at the University of Oregon—Deady Hall and Dunn Hall. Prior to announcing my decision, I would like to discuss some of the events that led up to where we are now.


Increasing diversity and inclusion at the University of Oregon are among our most important objectives for achieving excellence in academics, access, and student experience. It is central to our mission and embedded in our strategic framework. As I have repeatedly said and written, we must improve our efforts to recruit and retain faculty members and students from underrepresented groups, especially with respect to African Americans, who have been historically underrepresented on our campus. Only 2 percent of our students are Black or African American; among the members of our tenure-track faculty, the proportion is only 1.6 percent. Neither statistic is acceptable. We cannot and should not hide behind the defense that the state of Oregon has a comparatively small population of African American residents. Instead, this fact should cause us to work harder to recruit African American students and faculty members to the university and then, once here, make them feel included and part of our community.

In November of last year, after the racial unrest at the University of Missouri sparked protests throughout the nation, a group called the Black Student Task Force (BSTF) conducted a march on the UO campus and submitted a list of 12 demands that focused on how the university could increase diversity and inclusiveness for African American students. Many of the demands are quite reasonable—consistent with our institutional priorities and the IDEAL diversity framework—and, if implemented, would make our university a better place. Members of our faculty and administration promptly met with members of the BSTF and established 13 separate task forces composed of administrators, faculty members, and students to work on the demands.

In an April 26 letter to the campus community, I stated our commitment to immediately implement six of the demands including (1) expanding efforts to attract and recruit Black students through an African American Opportunities Program, (2) inviting six Black Greek letter organizations to the UO, (3) creating an African American residential student community, (4) creating new African American advisory boards for retention and advising, (5) creating an African American lecture series, and (6) publishing diversity data. We continue to work on remaining demands including committee recommendations to fundraise for a Black cultural center and student scholarships, hire a retention specialist, attract more Black faculty members, and expand or require curriculum offerings that explore the experience of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. I expect to make an announcement detailing our progress with respect to these requests in the early fall.

The Backdrop to This Recommendation

This letter concerns the demand by the BSTF to “change the names of all of the KKK related buildings on campus. Deady Hall will be the first building to be renamed.” On December 1, 2015, I convened a committee chaired by Charise Cheney, associate professor of ethnic studies, to seek input from a variety of stakeholders and provide advice concerning the criteria the university might use in deciding whether Deady and Dunn Halls should be denamed. I received the committee report on March 14. I then used the advice of the committee to write a set of criteria for denaming Deady and Dunn Halls. On May 6, I empaneled a group of three distinguished historians—David Alan Johnson, professor at Portland State University; Quintard Taylor, professor emeritus and Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor of American History at the University of Washington; and Marsha Weisiger, the UO’s Julie and Rocky Dixon Chair in US Western History—to examine the historical record of Matthew Deady and Frederic Dunn and address each of the criteria. The historians report was delivered August 9 and posted on the president’s website. In an all-campus message, I requested that interested students, faculty members, staff, alumni, and members of our broader community submit their comments and suggestions by August 24 so I could take them into account in making a recommendation to our UO Board of Trustees. Outreach efforts included multiple e-mails to all of our students, faculty members, staff, and alumni; articles on the Around the O news website; and contact with members of the news media that resulted in multiple stories about the request for input. In addition, I also sent direct requests for input to members of the BSTF, the Black Student Union, Black Male Alliance, and Black Women of Achievement.

Since August 9, 969 individuals submitted electronic forms voicing their opinions on the denaming issue. Of these submissions, 434 were from students, 186 were from alumni, 143 were from faculty members, 158 were from officers of administration and members of classified staff, and 48 were from other individuals. The participation rate in the comment period by our campus community was much higher than on any other input opportunity at the university in recent history (e.g., tuition, strategic framework, IDEAL). I also received several letters. In addition to these submissions and letters, at least 18 editorials, op-eds, and letters-to-the-editor have appeared in Oregon media on the question of the denaming. I have read each of these submissions and commentaries as well as engaged in conversations with scores of members of the university community.

First Principles

The question of whether to recommend that the Board of Trustees dename Deady and Dunn Halls is one of the most difficult matters I have encountered in my first 15 months as president of the University of Oregon. This is because many of the factors and principles I weighed when applied to the facts were in tension with one another, including (in no particular order):

  • Bigotry and racism have no place in our society or our university. Each of us must value each other based upon individual merit and not the color of our skin, the social status of our parents, our gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or physical or mental ability.
  • It is vital that all students at the University of Oregon feel valued and included as part of this institution. This is true for every member of our community, but particular attention needs to be paid to members of groups who often feel isolated and alienated as a result of their chronic underrepresentation on campus and the legacy of racism in this state and nation.
  • We must be careful not to obscure our history regardless of whether we like what we find when we study it. The only way we can understand our present and prevent injustice from repeating itself is to study our history and learn from our past.
  • The process of naming or denaming a building has symbolic value. But symbols are less important than actions that affect the material circumstances of members of our community.
  • Naming a building and denaming a building are not identical actions and should be governed by separate decision-making processes and considerations.
    • Naming a building honors an individual either for exceptional contributions to the university and our society or for exceptional generosity. While extremely meaningful, naming a building occurs regularly and is usually done contemporaneously with, or shortly after, the life of the person for whom a building is named. The very purpose of naming is to establish a durable honor that stands the test of time.
    • Denaming a building, on the other hand, is an extraordinary event and should only occur in very limited circumstances. Many decades may have passed since the person whose name is on a building was alive, and information will typically be less complete than in a naming decision. Contemporary decision-makers will often be limited in their ability to evaluate the behavior of people who lived in circumstances and with cultural mores very different from our own. Denaming is also an act associated with ignominy and the destruction of reputation. We should normally be careful when we do this, particularly because the person involved will seldom be available to defend himself or herself.
    • Finally, denaming threatens to obscure history and hide the ugliness of our past, which is contrary to our institution’s values of promoting lifelong learning and sharing knowledge. Therefore, the presumption should be against denaming a building except in extraordinarily egregious circumstances.

Dunn Hall

Frederic S. Dunn was born in Eugene in 1872. He received his AB from the University of Oregon in 1892, a second AB from Harvard University in 1894, and an AM degree from the University of Oregon. He served as professor of Latin until he retired in 1935. For many of those years he was head of the Department of Classics. According to the historians report (pp. 25–26), he was one of the best-known university professors of classics on the Pacific Coast and an active member of the community.

While little is known of Dunn’s personal views, it is clear that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and served as the “Exalted Cyclops (leader) of Eugene Klan No. 3 in the 1920s. At its peak (1923), the Eugene Klan had an estimated 450 members” (p. 28). While the national Ku Klux Klan had a notorious record of terrorizing African Americans, in Oregon the primary target of the Klan was the Catholic population. During Dunn’s period of leadership, the Klan attempted to remove all Catholic officeholders and teachers from their positions. They also campaigned against giving Catholic-run Mercy Hospital a tax exemption as a charitable institution and tried to restrict the activities of the Newman Center, a Catholic student organization located near the University of Oregon campus.

According to the historians report, Dunn “made no secret of his dual role as college professor and Klansman. As the leader of the Klan in Lane County, he would have presided over initiation ceremonies for new Klansmen and participated in numerous Klan parades and rallies in the area” (p. 31). During its existence in the state, the Ku Klux Klan was publicly known for at least five physical attacks on Oregon citizens, including threatened lynchings and a probable murder of an African American, though it is not known whether Dunn participated in these attacks (p. 33). The historians conclude that “[w]hile we will never know how Dunn felt about the violence associated with the Invisible Empire, it is certain that he was aware of it and yet continued to lead Eugene Klan No. 3” (p. 33). No evidence was found that Dunn ever repudiated his role in the Klan. The historians conclude, “Thus, we are forced to surmise from the known activities of the organization he led during its heyday in Eugene that Dunn knowingly embraced an organization that, by today’s standards (but also in the view of most of his colleagues and students at the time), violated the core values of the University of Oregon” (p. 33).

In my reading of the almost 1,000 responses to the historians report by members of our community, a strong consensus supported denaming Dunn Hall.

Given the findings of the historians report, I agree with the conclusion of the majority of the comments made by members of our community: Dunn, as the head of an organization that supported racism and violence against African Americans, Catholics, and Jews, is not a man for whom a building should be named on the University of Oregon campus. While Dunn no doubt was a dedicated teacher and scholar, neither of these activities outweigh the harm he did by lending his name to one of the most despicable organizations in American history. Even though I begin with a presumption against denaming university buildings, Dunn’s case is an egregious one. Therefore, I am recommending that the Board of Trustees remove Dunn’s name from the building currently called Dunn Hall as soon as possible.

If the trustees accept my recommendation, I will take two further actions. First, a plaque will be erected in a conspicuous place in the building that indicates that it used to be Dunn Hall and explains why it was denamed. Second, I will recommend to the Board of Trustees that we start a renaming process with the goal of naming the resident hall for a man or woman whose life exemplifies the characteristics of racial diversity and inclusion that Dunn despised. This renaming process will include the views of students, alumni, and the faculty and staff.

Deady Hall

Matthew Paul Deady was born in Talbot County, Maryland, in 1824. He studied law in Ohio and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1847. In 1849 he moved to Lafayette, Oregon, and taught school. In 1850, Deady ran for and won a seat in the territorial legislature and quickly became the presiding officer of its upper house. He became active in the Democratic Party and was appointed by President Franklin Pierce to the territorial Supreme Court for Oregon’s southern counties. In 1860, President Buchanan appointed Deady to the US District Court for Oregon, making him Oregon’s first federal judge.

During the course of his life, Deady was deeply engaged with the University of Oregon. He is, in fact, widely regarded as one of the most important figures in the university’s history. In 1873, he was appointed regent by the governor, elected as president, and served in that role until 1892. He participated in selecting the university’s first president, served as commencement speaker at its first graduation, designed its first seal, and founded the university’s law school, where he served as a part-time faculty member. In the 1880s, he famously persuaded Northern Pacific Railroad president Henry Villard to donate $50,000 in railroad bonds to ensure that the university did not close for financial reasons. In recognition of his career and association with the University of Oregon, his name was affixed to Deady Hall in 1893.

The historians report concludes that Deady had a “very complicated intellect” that defies easy summary (p. 22). Deady ran for office as a proslavery delegate to the Oregon Constitutional Convention. The historians report provides a quotation from a letter he wrote to Marion County legislator Benjamin Simpson one month prior to the convention that provides an insight into his motivation: “There are some millions of Africans owned as property in the United States, and whatever shallow-brains or Smatter-much may say about ‘property in man,’ they are just as much property as horses, cattle, or land, because the law which creates all property makes them such.” The historians suggest that at least part of Deady’s support for slavery was tied to his view that the law compelled that result based upon the Constitution’s protection of private property rights. Indeed, this view of slaves as property is behind what many believe is the most calamitous Supreme Court decision of all time—Dred Scott v. Sanford.[1] According to the historians, Deady “did not press the slavery issue in Salem. . . .” (p. 7). Ultimately, the proposal failed with 75 percent of the voters voting against it.        

It is questionable that Deady’s support for slavery was solely compelled by his interpretation of precedent and the Constitution. Instead, Deady was a man who had views that were racist and proslavery. Deady supported a constitutional provision that excluded African Americans from the State of Oregon, a provision that won the approval of 89 percent of Oregon voters. Further, in a speech reported in the Sacramento Daily Union, Deady was paraphrased as approving the Dred Scott decision and perhaps went further: “Deady said in Jacksonville that ‘he should vote for slavery in Oregon’ and argued that any constitutional effort to prevent free blacks from immigrating and settling in Oregon would prove to be ‘a dead letter,’ adding ‘If we are compelled to have the colored race amongst us, they should be slaves’” (p. 6).

After secession, however, Deady denounced the Confederacy, left the Democratic Party, joined the Union, became a Republican, and ultimately served as an honorary pallbearer at President Lincoln’s funeral. The historians characterized the change in Deady as a “metamorphosis” rooted in his “allegiance to the rule of law” (p. 9). Deady also embraced the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, initially designed to uplift and empower Black people, which went on to become the cornerstones of American antidiscrimination law.

In his role as a judge, Deady never ruled on an issue involving discrimination against African Americans. He did decide several cases involving Chinese immigrants and Native Americans. In his rulings, Deady demonstrated an acceptance of the principles embodied in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. He opposed the legal or extralegal harassment of Chinese immigrants and interpreted immigration laws in such a way as to protect them (p. 3). He never promoted a policy of internment. With respect to Native Americans, he ruled against citizenship, but also believed that at least one tribe had been unfairly dispossessed of their land (p. 3). These facts do not atone for his views on African Americans, but do establish his contribution to interpreting the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments in ways that led to future antidiscrimination laws, and which show a measure of change in attitude and behavior.

Thus in Matthew Deady we have a complicated man. Like many white men of his generation he had racist views. The exclusion provision he championed was ultimately supported by 89 percent of Oregon voters at a time when only white men were allowed to vote. Yet Deady also supported slavery, which was opposed by 75 percent of white male Oregonians. Was Deady’s willingness to support slavery despite a lack of support among the voting public attributable to racism, or to his legal views about property rights? We will never know for sure, but my reading of the historians report and some of the primary documents cited therein suggest both motivations were at play.

Returning to my first principles, does the evidence amassed in the historians report overcome a presumption against denaming a building?

Deady was a man of great achievement, not the least of which was his pivotal role in the founding and sustaining of the University of Oregon. He was also a deeply flawed man. As stated before, like many men of his generation he held racist views. Regardless of whether his support for slavery and exclusion was attributable to racism or a legalistic interpretation of property rights, in the end he was on the wrong side of history. On the other side of the ledger, following the Civil War, Deady embraced the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and their principles of equal protection under the law.

The input I received clearly shows our community remains divided on the question of whether Deady Hall should be renamed. Many feel that Matthew Deady’s name on our landmark building is a daily affront and sends the wrong message to prospective and current students. A large number feel that Deady should continue to be honored as one of the university’s founders and not judged by the standards of today. Despite this division, I believe that our community has greatly benefited by confronting some very ugly historical truths about our state and some of the figures who played an important role in the creation of the University of Oregon that we know today. While I have no desire to needlessly prolong the uncertainty over the future of Deady Hall, I also believe that we would miss an important educational opportunity by deciding the matter prior to the return to campus of our students and faculty later this month. Therefore, I have decided that I will refrain from making a decision on Deady Hall until the campus can engage further in a discussion of Matthew Deady and the future of Deady Hall.

To facilitate that discussion, I will reopen the comment period until Friday, October 14. In addition, I plan to work with our Division of Equity and Inclusion; and our students, faculty, and staff  to plan a campus conversation on the subject in October. Following the comment period and campus conversation, I will make my decision regarding whether to dename Deady Hall.

Regardless of what is ultimately decided concerning the naming of Deady Hall, we will not let this educational opportunity be lost in the debate over what we call a specific edifice. We will immediately begin planning a historical exhibition in the building that will educate all who enter on the mixed legacy of its namesake. This exhibit will be created in consultation with students, the faculty and staff, and the Presidential Diversity Advisory Community Council. We will also explore partnerships with the Oregon Historical Society and other entities to create an exhibit in Portland that will examine racism in Oregon. It is my hope that future generations of school children will view this exhibit and link the University of Oregon with fearless exploration of racism and truth, even though that exploration might be painful.


My decision will not be unanimously approved of by all members of our community, and I concede that there is still an important decision to be made. Nevertheless, there must be no doubt that we are unified in our commitment to diversity and inclusion, and we will continue to make progress toward those important ends. In particular, we are grateful to the members of the BSTF for bringing this issue to the fore. Regardless of what names we use to refer to these two buildings, the BSTF’s transformative leadership has already changed our university forever. This debate, along with the initiatives that will arise from their demands, will make our university stronger, better, and more enlightened.


Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law               


[1] 60 U.S. 393 (1857). The historians report finds that Deady never accepted the view that slavery was wrong. The report quotes a couple passages from Deady’s diary dating from 1884 and 1890, respectively: “Fifty years will have to roll by before the popular mind recovers its equilibrium on this [slavery] question. The war and the results of it have made a man who owned Negroes or obeyed and respected the injunctions and limitation of the Constitution on this subject, look like a criminal by this generation” (p. 20). “He takes my ground that the slave trade and Negro slavery were the means providential or otherwise by which the negro was educated and prepared for his present career of self-dependence” (p. 20).